Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coffee shop withdrawal, but the band plays on

I'm seriously annoyed that a cold, Tuesday classes, winter weather and general procrastination have kept me away from the Monday night Fiddle & Banjo Jam at the Coffee Mill in Radford all winter... especially since the Coffee Mill was my favorite place in town and has been struggling for a year.

Now it has pulled the plug, at least until some new owner steps up and smells the coffee, or opportunity, or something.

It's hard to believe a college town can't support one independent coffee shop a five minute walk from campus. However, the university houses an on-campus Starbucks, an Au Bon Pain and a Ben & Jerry's with Green Mountain Coffee. I think they all accept students' parent-subsidized meal cards. Even with free wifi, that was a lot for the Coffee Mill to compete with.

On the other hand, closing at 5 p.m. most nights was no way to encourage students to come down off the hill, and a recent decision to close on Sundays killed my pattern of weekly homework-grading visits.

The coffeeshop's only regular evening event was the Monday Fiddle & Banjo Jam, which packed the house, but catered more to bluegrass fans than to the average Radford student... and probably didn't make much money, since the place was so crowded you couldn't get to the counter to order another scone, quiche or latte -- words you won't hear in many bluegrass lyrics.

Anyhow, along with missing some great music on Mondays, I've missed a chance to congratulate maestro Ralph Berrier on his new book, so I'll throw a few links here.

Ralph calls his If Trouble Don’t Kill Me, "the true story of my music-playing grandfather and his twin brother..."

His home page is streaming about 15 minutes of a 1942 Christmas broadcast by Roy Hall and His Blue Ridge Entertainers on WDBJ in Roanoke, complete with Dr Pepper commercial and nice renditions of Fireball Mail, Deep Ellum Blues and more.

If you're not from around here, you may have missed Ralph's project at The Roanoke Times, mapping Virginia's
Crooked Road traditional music events and venues.

Meanwhile, the good news is that Ralph is keeping the Fiddle & Banjo jam alive by moving it a mile or so down Main Street to Wade's Supermarket.

Until I went looking to confirm the rumor, I didn't even realize the session had its own Website!:

I've just gotta get out more.

A couple of loosely related stories by Ralph: